Tuesday, March 4, 2014
That narrow-minded attitudes are insidious
My son, Logan, is getting great at his favourite computer game, League of Legends. He sits up late to play and recently got himself high into the ranks of Platinum 1. They tell me that is nudging very close to a Diamond ranking, where many players actually have the potential to earn, or are already earning money.
Yet rarely does he get congratulated by extended family or friends, and I include myself too. We praise his sister, Emma, more for her various pursuits. Emma's ambition is to be a dessert chef, and she makes some luscious treats in the kitchen to take to events. She also loves her nature photography, and her art lessons. She puts a lot of heart and soul into all of this, and it's right that she should receive positive feedback. It's very easy to give, when her chosen hobbies are so easy to admire.
Yet a lot of work and passion goes into Logan's hobby too. To be as good at League of Legends as he is takes skill, coordination, reaction time, finely honed prediction skills and being able to liaise well with team members. It's taken a lot of work to rise in the ranks of the game as he has done, and very few have made it that far. His dad, Andrew, likes the game too, but has got no higher than the Bronze level, which is much lower. There are thousands of players across the world. It's equivalent, in its way, to people attempting to be masters of Chess.
So why aren't extended family and friends as impressed with his conquest as we are with what Emma does? It surely comes down to two things which are closely connected; cultural bias and stigma. Those of us who live in English speaking countries are often surprised to learn what huge followings these computer games have in countries such as South Korea. Over there, they actually televise matches of Starcraft and League of Legends on prime time TV, as if they are celebrated sports (which indeed, they are for them).
The experts of these games are household names. They earn huge pay packets and sometimes retire with physical injuries because of the repetitive strain of being so keyed-up on their game. And the boys tell me that family expectations are way different over there. An Aussie or American parent may say, 'It's very important that you raise your maths and science grades. We want you to be a doctor.' In South Korea, a bossy mother may be more likely to say, 'I want you glued to that computer chair practising your game. We want you to be a League of Legends star! Don't get up until you've reached Gold.'
There is a natural respect for games such as LOL in that part of the world which we just don't have in Australia. Logan has been known not to even mention his achievements at family or church gatherings, because people give off vibes of disapproval. They may say, 'That's all very well, but what proper hobbies and work are you doing?' Members of the older generations often don't try to hide their distaste at all. 'All those computer games are making our young people go to the dogs! It breaks my heart to see it. Your sensibilities are being worn down with all that pointless killing stuff. It's turning our young people into savages. What's the world coming to?' It never seems to occur to them that they are actually being rude to rubbish a young man's hobby in front of him. He doesn't stand there, criticising their stamp collections, lawn bowls or whatever else.
I definitely agree that there is a problem if playing the computer games is all these young people do with their time. But the same goes for reading novels, which is my own chosen leisure time filler. Anything done excessively until it becomes an addiction is too much, but that doesn't make the hobby itself intrinsically bad. And many of these young gamers are students with other outlets. Also, I believe studies have shown that people who play computer games in their spare time have not had empathy erosion any more than anybody else.
My way of thinking has been challenged. I've been on the receiving end of narrow-minded judgments myself, by some Christians who have dismissed my fiction writing as pointless and frivolous. Remembering how it felt, it surprised me one day, to hear myself echo that very same attitude with regard to computer games, when I said something like, 'If only you'd devote that much time to your school studies, instead of this stuff.'
People who buy into the stigma are short-sighted and don't realise that their hearts don't need to be broken by changing times. I've visited the Christian Gamers Guild website, which contains many interesting essays designed to give concerned parents a broader outlook about the subject of computer games. And I'm glad to see novels such as "Motive Games" by L.D. Taylor being published. This is a Young Adult novel set in the up-and-coming world of the computer game design and manufacture industry. It's a clever murder mystery showing that intelligence and honour are tied up with the industry, instead of the opposite, as many people seem to automatically assume.
Basically, I've come around to see that refusal to change with the times is not gracious, and is also a bit silly. I don't want to be counted among those who are old-fashioned, blinkered in their outlook and behind the times. I don't want to spout my mouth off negatively about something of which I know very
little. I want to be open-hearted enough to congratulate my son for a well-earned achievement instead of rolling my eyes. We're hoping he'll get up into Diamond soon.